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Setting the record straight, in my own words

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Sonia Melara (left), dropped her bid for reappointment to the San Francisco Police Commission after the Board of Supervisors voted against her and her fellow commissioner Joe Marshall (right). (Mira Laing/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

In the past few weeks articles in the Chronicle and Examiner have been written about my reappointment to the Police Commission. Some referred to the reasons a few of the members of the Board of Supervisors had for not supporting my reappointment. A couple of articles suggested the reason for the negative vote was that I might have been “too close to the Police Officers Association.”

I want to set the record straight.

I support the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department who serve our city and I believe in providing them with the tools necessary to ensure their and the public’s safety. I don’t support unnecessary use of force and or reckless behavior. I also believe we have hired a great police chief whom I believe will lead the department in the right direction. I do not want my support for officers to be mistaken for untethered support of the Police Officers Association.

I met with some supervisors who voted against my reappointment and answered all their questions fully and honestly.

One member asked why I had not taken a public position against Proposition H, the measure placed on the June ballot by the POA, which intended to provide Tasers to officers without the Police Commission oversight.

As someone who spent long hours developing a policy for the commission’s approval, I was not in favor of proposition H as the commission had already approved a well-researched and thorough policy. If I had been close to the POA, I would have advised them against placing the measure on the ballot.

As a commissioner, I didn’t feel I should have taken a position against H as I believed that those who were against the measure were primarily against Tasers, not necessarily in favor of commission oversight over voter oversight. Prop H’s failure is wrongly being used as a referendum against Tasers as opposed to the question as to who has oversight of the policy.

Tangentially, another reason for rejecting my reappointment was that a board member questioned me about my treatment of another commissioner. I took a stand against a commissioner who constantly questioned my leadership on the committee leading the Taser policy.

However, another male commissioner who led the same group toward the end, and who was a lot more explicit in his objections than I was, was never considered rude.

There were other baseless and misogynistic allegations made against me because of my opinions. I think this is where men and women are perceived differently when being forthright and in leadership positions. Men are considered firm, while women are rude.

Among some of the supervisors’ concerns were that I was unavailable to the community, although not one community member ever approached me on the issue.

There were a lot of long hours and hard work performed by police commissioners attempting to ensure the safety of the public as well as police officers. I wanted to continue to work as a commissioner regardless of the challenges because I believe in the difficult, dangerous and often thankless work the department performs.

What many people do not understand was the vitriol and threats I was subjected to because of my work on the Taser policy. The intolerance I and others have faced only confirms that we are not nearly as tolerant as we think we are. I thought San Francisco was more evolved.

Sonia Melara is a former member of the San Francisco Police Commission.

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